Trust Index: Is Florida really checking on NY-area travelers ordered to self-quarantine?

News 6 Trust Index: Be careful

For months travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had to fill out a Florida Department of Health (FDOH) contact information form when they flew in or drove into Florida.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – For months travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had to fill out a Florida Department of Health (FDOH) contact information form when they flew in or drove into Florida.

The forms asked for contact information and notified travelers they must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the self-quarantine in Executive Order 20-82 enacted on March 24.

The order mandated every state official to "assist the department of health" in enforcing the quarantine.

For months, News 6 asked the FDOH: How much enforcement has it done?

In April, a spokesperson said the department is logging the contact information collected from the forms and regularly following up with travelers to verify they are self-quarantining, even doing wellness check-ins.

But the FDOH would not say how many travelers it followed up with or checked on. News 6 sent six separate emails requesting the information.

Earlier this month, News 6 asked Gov. DeSantis about the lack of response from FDOH.

Be Careful

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“We’ve been asking the Department of Health over and over again about travelers entering the state of Florida, I know you were big on that,” von Ancken told DeSantis. “We’re asking how many people have they followed up on, how many they called, how many answered the phone, how many are not answering the phone. They either won’t or cannot give us number.”

DeSantis said enforcement isn't done entirely by the FDOH.

"Well I think part of it is that it's not all done at the state level," DeSantis answered. "As you know, we have 67 County Health Departments, it's not all done by the health department. We actually have some law enforcement agencies following up on it so it's hard to centralize. I can tell you we screen over 50,000 people coming from the New York City area and Louisiana. Most of it has been airplane travel into the State of Florida, some on I-95 and some on I-10."

News 6 asked the FDOH in Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Volusia Counties.

Volusia said it has called more than 150 travelers from the New York-area that came through the Daytona Beach International Airport.

But Osceola County and Orange County both said they have not checked on travelers ordered to self-quarantine unless they show symptoms.

Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Raul Pino said the county does not have the resources to check all travelers.

“In our case, we’re not checking on the travelers; we only check on people who have symptoms that are in our databases,” Pino said. “We don’t have the capacity to check every single individual that comes into the county.”

So von Ancken asked the Governor about Pino's revelation.

“The director of the Orange County Health Department told us the health department has never checked on any travelers were supposed to be self-quarantining who were not showing systems,” von Ancken told the Governor. “In fact, Osceola County said the same thing. Has there ever really been enforcement of travelers who were supposed to be self-quarantining and if so by whom? We can’t get an answer.”

DeSantis said there have been checks.

"The State Health Department I know has been involved, the National Guard has been involved, we've screened, oh man, tens of thousands of people and I know there have been people who have been followed up on," DeSantis answered.

"Was anyone checked on in Orange County? We can't tell that anyone was?" von Ancken asked.

"I have to look that up, I don't want to tell you that they weren't or they were, but I know obviously we wanted to work on stopping the spread," DeSantis responded.

DeSantis' Press Secretary, Cody McCloud, said it was "not the responsibility of the Orange County Health Department to perform these checks."

"The Florida Highway Patrol conducted randomized checks to ensure compliance with the executive order," McCloud said.

So News 6 asked FHP how many checks on travelers it has conducted.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Director of Communications Aaron Keller said FHP has conducted less than 150 enforcement checks on travelers in Central Florida.

"The Florida Highway Patrol has conducted nearly 900 checks to ensure compliance with the executive order," Keller said. "Close to 150 of those checks were conducted in Central Florida."

Based on our investigation, News 6 rated the claim that Florida has been enforcing the self-quarantine of travelers from the NY-area as ‘Be Careful.’

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.